Ha! If you want to see how much fun retired folks from 55 to 85 can
have, you should spend some time at any of the RV resorts from Florida
to California when the snowbirds arrive for the winter!
This is our
fourth time in three winters to hunker down at the Eagle Hammock RV Park
on Kings Bay Submarine Base near St. Mary's, Georgia. It's so close to
Florida we usually just tell folks we're in Florida.
entry is a summary of our activities while in the area.
Lake D is just a few steps from
In addition to lots of interesting places to visit on your own in the
area, the campground has plenty of activities to keep folks as busy as
they want to be, from van trips to the Okefenokee Swamp to group walks
on nearby trails to more sedentary things at The Nest community room in the
middle of the campground.
At The Nest we've participated in catered meals (Thanksgiving dinner,
New Year's Eve party, pizza party, pancake breakfasts, brunches),
potlucks, wine and cheese parties, and ice cream socials. Other folks
enjoy weekly card games, sing-a-longs, and other group activities.
It's been fun to reconnect with folks we've met here before and to
make new friends from all over the country. Military retirees are an
Egret near fishing pier on Lake D
Casey and Cody have been even more socially active than Jim and I
have. They've made lots of human and canine friends in the campground, the
new dog park on base, and the dog park in the nearby town of St. Mary's.
Their very favorite new buddy is Cassie, a year-old female Bernese
Casey and Cassie run around in
the dog park in St. Mary's.
Jim discovered the new, large dog park on base a couple weeks before
its grand opening. A former soccer field was totally enclosed with
fencing and divided into areas for small and large dogs.
It's been a great place for Jim to play ball with Casey and for her
to meet new playmates:
On the day the dog park was dedicated about 50 dogs and their owners
were present for the ceremony. Cody stuck as close to us as he could but
Casey really worked the crowd! She even got her picture in the base
FEELS LIKE HOME
Now that we're full-time RVing we're more inclined to stay longer in
some places we really like. Kings Bay is one of those places. It really
does feel like home to us.
This is the longest we've been in any one place since we retired
eleven years ago -- four full months, from November 20 to March
20. We'll be leaving tomorrow to begin a slow journey west, culminating
in our second trip to Alaska for the summer.
I've written about this RV park and Kings Bay Sub Base several times
Feb. 18 and
31, 2014, and
Jan. 12, 2015 all have text and photos)
so I won't go into a lot of detail here. I'll include mostly new photos
taken since the beginning of this year.
View of our RV from a nearby bike
Eagle Hammock has about 60 RV sites with full hookups, cable TV, and
free WiFi for a very reasonable $540/month ($570 for lakeside sites).
The daily rate is higher.
There are also two cabins that military folks or their guests can
rent for only $60/day. We sponsored two guests while we were here and
they were pleased with the accommodations and natural surroundings.
The campground has been more full this year than previously, with up
to ten RVs piggy-backing onto the utilities on sites at the end of rows
plus others dry camping in grassy areas. Here's an example:
The motorhome above the arrow is
piggy-backed to the hookups in the site to the right;
the campground office is on the
left. Lake D is in the background, left.
We reserved a lakeside site several months in advance, but for only
December, January, and February. We were able to come in ten days early
and get a lakeside site but when we decided in early December to extend
another twenty days in March, we had to move to a non-lakeside site on March 1.
With so many people here, we were lucky to get that. No
special treatment -- we asked before other people did.
The base has approved the construction of another ten or twelve
lakeside sites but they probably won't be built for a couple years (if
you think the government moves slowly, the military moves even more
slowly). We don't plan to return to Kings Bay next winter --
we're ready to go back to the Southwest desert again -- but next
time we do, we'll make our reservations as soon as allowed.
We had a great lakeside site for thee-plus months -- first
site, close to the entrance and office (free WiFi!), large front yard with no
one on our doorside:
Our back-in site the first three weeks of March is also nice -- lots of grass on
either side, good neighbors (including one of the campground host
couples), still close to the office (can still access the free WiFi at our site), closer to
the laundry room, and easy to walk the dogs to potty:
Campgrounds with full hookups don't get much better than this one.
Maybe I should quit publicizing it or we won't be able to get in next time!
HIKES & BIKE RIDES ON BASE
This base has many miles of paved and unpaved roads, bike paths, and
trails for us to ride and hike. Even when it was cold or raining (had too
much of that this winter!**) Jim and I got out every day to get exercise.
** At least one day in December or January we noted that it was
warmer in Anchorage than south Georgia!
My main outdoor activity was walking the dogs at Lake D, which is
right outside our door. The trail around the lake is about three miles
and there are lots of ways to shorten or lengthen that. Even though I
showed several people how to get around the lake (no trail for about
half of it), I rarely saw anyone else on the far side of the water:
On my walks I had fun taking photos of fall leaves back in November and December,
spring flowers in February and March,
birds like herons and egrets that winter here (the original snowbirds!),
Blue heron, with an alligator
swimming beyond it (under arrow) in Lake D
armadillos (the dogs get all excited about those), and lots of
alligators and turtles:
I've spotted more alligators and turtles than in previous
winters, probably because I've got a better camera now with a 50x
optical zoom (and another 50x digital zoom).
Now I can see what's on the far side of the lakeshore:
Are these turtles brave or about to win a Darwin
I can see adult alligators with my naked eyes from
several hundred feet away but I never would have seen those turtles
close to this alligator without a good zoom lens.
I also discovered two baby 'gators that like to sun next to the
channel of lake water that is close to our campsite. One is about three
the other about two feet long:
Aren't they cute??
They are young enough that Mom might still be nearby but I never did
see her. I was fascinated enough with these little guys that I looked
for them every day.
One day we found a baby frog (about one inch long) hopping around in
the camper. You should have seen Jim, the dogs, and me try to catch that
little rascal! We finally cornered it and tossed it back outside. Better
a frog than a mouse . . .
I also got out a few times a week to ride my bike but didn't do as
many miles as Jim did. My favorite places to ride were by the various
ponds and lakes on base, Trident Lakes golf course,
and through Etowah Park, which allows tent camping for military families.
Jim rode his bike off-base several times to add variety and distance
to his rides. I took this photo of the park in St. Mary's one time I rode
there with him:
Another day we took guests to the St. Mary's Visitor Center, where we
enjoyed the exhibits and radio museum; the National Park
Service's Cumberland Island visitor center, which has nice nature
displays; and the Cumberland Island Museum, which Jim and I
hadn't visited before:
Jim has signed up for a 148-mile bike race in Alaska in June so he
has some incentive to put in lots of miles. He also plans to ride two
gravel grinders in Texas in May. Although he couldn't do any meaningful hill
training in this flat terrain he could work on distance and intensity.
We also worked out at the fitness center on base several times. I've
been doing some physical therapy to strengthen my knees and was able to
use the equipment there to supplement my home exercises.
Jim participated in two volunteer activities while we were at Kings
Bay. One was sorting donated military clothing at the Uniform Locker.
The other was manning a booth twice at the Navy Exchange (NEX) to recruit
volunteers for the Red Cross:
His talents were under-utilized by both organizations but
there just weren't any other better opportunities available that fit his
interests and skills while we were on base.
OTHER SCENES FROM OFF-BASE
I took more photos of the historic tabby-walled McIntosh Sugar Mill just outside
the main gate:
After one of my ferry rides to Cumberland Island I noticed this
handsome tall ship at the dock in St. Mary's:
It's the "Peacemaker," a three-masted, square-rigged vessel built in
Brazil with handsome woods inside and out. It's quite elegant --
and for sale with an elegant price to match.
We were able to board and tour it before it set sail for another port:
Most of the winter was fun and relaxing during our stay at Kings Bay. In addition
to all the activities we did on and near Kings Bay, we also
took several day drives to Florida. I'll have a separate entry for that,
and another for photos from the three trips I took over to Cumberland Island.
More mundane tasks also had to be done, like finding local medical
providers for our eye exams and new glasses and cortisone shots for our sore hand,
shoulder, and knee joints.
Other boats in St. Mary's harbor
Finding good doctors takes some research but
we were pleased with the specialists we found in Jacksonville. So far we've had no
issues as new patients with getting in to see providers who accept
Medicare and Tricare for Life.
Jim also did quite a bit of maintenance work on the Cameo, truck, and
Odyssey to get them in tip-top shape before we start driving more miles
this spring and summer.
Jim saves us a bundle of $$$ by doing so much work himself. He also
maintains both of our bicycles.
View of the sunset from our site
One advantage of staying at military bases is being able to use their
auto skills shops for routine vehicle maintenance. Jim can rent a lift
for only $5 an hour, making fluid changes and other jobs much easier and
safer than jacking up the vehicles and scooting under them.
He can also rent or borrow specialized tools there that he may not
have, and get free advice -- or pay them reasonable rates to do
work he doesn't want to do.
Jim used to do most of these jobs at our house between RV trips each
spring and fall. With no house, however, that's no longer an option.
Most RV parks prohibit doing any service work at our campsite, so now he
saves most of these jobs for times when we're at a military base or post.
Moon over Kings Bay (playing with my camera zoom)
His biggest project this spring was installing hydraulic disc brakes on the
Cameo to replace the original electric brakes. I'll talk about that in another entry.
As usual, we spent quite a bit of time this winter talking about our
travel plans for the remainder of the year. It's an ongoing process and
we often change our minds for various reasons.
We considered several different military RV parks from one end of
Florida to the other and finally eliminated all but one of them based on
what our research uncovered -- the Blue Angel Naval Recreation Area managed
by Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola.
We plan to spend several weeks there. On the way we'll check out an
Army rec. area called Grassy Pond. It's south of Valdosta, GA near the FL border.
Next entry: scenes from three day trips to Florida --
the Tampa RV SuperShow, Rainbow Springs State Park, and Mayport Naval
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil